By Grace Chingoma
After an explosive weekend during which their labour dispute with ZIFA reached boiling point, the Warriors were yesterday back to their jovial selves as they flew out of Harare for their African Cup of Nations campaign in Gabon.
It might have been a low key farewell, compared to the pomp and funfair that characterised the departures of the classes of 2004 and 2006, but the atmosphere appeared to have done little to dampen their spirits as they left Harare International Airport for Yaounde, Cameroon, via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Only a handful of people – who included ZIFA councillors and players’ parents’ were on hand to bid the team farewell.
Among parents at the airport were the mothers of forwards Mathew Rusike and Tinotenda Kadewere, with the latter’s wife also present.
Coach Callisto Pasuwa, who had a busy weekend trying to play the diplomat’s role together with team manager Sharif Mussa as tempers often boiled over the dispute, insisted his charges had now put all the problems behind them.
With their row with ZIFA over outstanding allowances and the bonuses to be paid for the Gabon campaign settled, the Warriors left the capital in three batches.
The first crew comprising African Footballer of the Year runner-up Khama Billiat, goalkeepers Tatenda Mukuruva and Takabva Mawaya and defender Elisha Muroiwa left in the morning via South Africa.
Pasuwa headlined the larger contingent that had the bulk of the players and his lieutenants, who were to stop over in Addis Ababa for the night.
Skipper Willard Katsande and Czech-based defender Costa Nhamoinesu then followed later in the afternoon, also going through Johannesburg from where they will connect to West Africa.
The players only resolved to travel yesterday after ZIFA, the Government and the sponsors ‘NetOne’ settled the impasse with the parties agreeing that they would be paid the $5 000 appearance fees per match.
Pasuwa said he was convinced the players had now turned their focus on the mission at hand with the coach also shifting his sights to their international friendly against the Indomitable Lions tomorrow.
“I am looking forward to the friendly match against Cameroon which we should be able to assess a number of things from these players.
“The boys have assured me they are focused on that match as well as the tournament now and there is not going to be any standoff in Yaounde or Gabon.
“So I am sure everything has been sorted out now and we are ready for the tasks ahead.
“Everyone is around, Khama returned home yesterday, so I am looking at having a workout once everyone arrives in Yaounde before we play Cameroon,” said Pasuwa.
The Warriors coach is also mulling a practice match, which will be an unofficial friendly between Democratic Republic of Congo and his charges, a day or two after their game against Cameroon.
DRC have been camping in Cameroon ahead of their Group C matches against Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco.
Versatile AS VITA Club player Oscar Machapa, who made it into the squad despite not having played in the qualifiers was happy that his hard work in the DRC had been recognised.
“It is a good feeling to represent your country.
“It is every player’s dream and I feel so blessed that I am going to represent my country. We have got a big job and we will try our level best to come up with positive results.
“Every player wishes to play at such type of tournaments and everyone is geared to do their best, who knows maybe some of the players might even get better deals,” Machapa said. The Herald